E-bay bidding rationale ???


After watching the prices on HP calculators skyrocket on e-bay for the last year or so, I've noticed something that just puzzles the heck out of me about the way some people bid. There are a few bidders, and probably at least some of them are frequent visitors to this forum, who are putting in bids that I don't understand.

My question is this. These few bidders seem to ALWAYS put in the first bid, and often the lowest allowed starting bid, on auctions for HP calculators. And they place this starting bid right away. It seems to me that these starting bids can't be intended to win anything since they are almost always outbid quite quickly. What this does accomplish is to negate any "buy it now" option that the seller might have put on the auction without also putting a reserve on it.

Granted, sellers who put BIN options on their auctions without also placing a reserve might not understand how that works. But I'm wondering what these same few buyers are trying to do.

There have been more than one time that I would have hit the BIN option but by the time I saw the auction one of these few initial bidders has placed his minimum bid and negated that BIN choice.

What am I missing here? What is the strategy being employed?


They are bidding low to allow tracking items easily. Makes finding items later easier using EBay search techniques. Searching for ID Tomd can usually find most any HP item...


Is that easier than just bookmarking them? That's what I do.

Yes, TOMD is one of the ones I always see doing that. There is a Tom Drewski (think that's the spelling) who frequents here. Is that Tom the same person?

Oh well. It sometimes bothers me about missing the BIN chance, but I guess that is the seller's problem as much as mine.


I set up bookmarks for what I am lookng for. I have one that is general, hp calculator, that returns about 95% of all hp calculators on eBay. From there I break it down to specific item that I want to check on such as hp 42s, or hp 48gx and so on. Also eBay has a "Watch This Item" feature that does not require you to bid on an item to follow it. I guess what it really comes down to is finding out what features eBay has to offer and then figuring out how to use them. Most people will find a method that works for them and then not change or not look for anything else that might be better.


I think he is the same. He must have quite a collection!


But if this is true and he does use it primarily for tracking purposes, why does he continue to place more bids on the same item early in the auction? I've seen him bid numerous times on the same item. Is this why prices are so high?


why not ask me?


Hi Tom,

Mainly I didn't ask you because I wasn't sure that you were the TOMD on e-bay. Apparently you have confirmed that you are so I guess I can ask you. Why do you make initial bids on auctions that are usually at the starting amount and get outbid? And does it ever have anything to do with the BIN option?

There have been a few answers here and they make some sense to me, but maybe you can enlighten me on your rationale.



There is a limit of 20 items that can be put on a watch list so bidding 1st or low allows you to create a different kind of watch list. The downside to this is that others can see what items you are watching and give them a sense of the demand for the item. I also don't understand the rationale of placing multiple bids because it only seems to serve the purpose of raising price levels on eBay. Perhaps there is something I'm missing.


For some, it must be entertainment. I know some loyal Hp bidders who wait up into wee hours particularly Sunday night into Monday morning to have first crack at the new indexes for BIN's placed at low prices (really? what's low anymore?) by those who really don't understand how eBay works best. Perhaps they have something they think is worth $50 so they list it BIN at $100, thinking they will make a killing if some fool jumps at the BIN. I have seen those last about 5 minutes when the price is right. I think the minimum bidding may be out of frustration? Heh, I can't buy it now, but I can show the world I was here first. What else can you do after you've waited for hours for eBay to get around to updates? Heh, I'm here, I might as well bid for fun, 'cause I'm not going to win anyway.

Dave, you're right about the bid amounts, I think they absolutely know they are not going to win, but they do it anyway. It is just part of the game. If it does anything, it just baits the newbies to try to outbid them by a buck. There could be a piece of pure junk up for auction and it can sit for days with no bids. When that first bid shows up at $1.99, the "everybody loves a bargain" mentality must kick into high gear and the free-for-all starts. It's not logic, it's emotion.

On the other side of the equation, the guy you mention may not end up winning many regular auctions, but I believe he has scored a red-dot 35 for $39 and a perfect 42S for $100 using the buy-it-now. So perhaps it is worth it to troll the new indexes when they pop out every 4 to 6 hours. Hey, for all we know, they may have some HTML reader bot auto surfing the calculator category looking for deltas and beeping them on their pager when something new shows up. I personally, have better things to do with my time than trying to make $10 or $20 being the middle-man on a calculator sale. It just isn't worth the risk. As I think Dave Hicks said in here somewhere, it is a totally transparent market.

Anybody who is buying on eBay to resell on eBay is going to loose. Those are my words, not Dave's. Unless of course you bought a big pile of new 32Sii's back in January on $49 close-outs. But, my crystal ball is broken, so I don't to try to figure out what is the next hot item.


The one I don't understand is why bidders bid higher
on their own bid. I've been looking at the bid history and see that many times the same person keeps bidding up his own bid. WHY????? In several cases the successful bidder increased his own bid by $50.

Why would anybody EVER bid higher when the already have the high bid?????


Hello Bill. I have asked me the same question. The explenation to it is very easy as I have learnd. If you place a bid with witch you didn't reach the highest bid yet, your alias appears on the list and you get a note that you have been outbid by some one else. So you try again and your bid appears again. And so on until you place the highest bid. This means your name shows up as long as you did not reached the top bidder. The more small steps the more your name turns up on the listing. Hope it is understandable explained by a native Swiss. ;_) Cheers Stephan


Thanks. Do you mean that the reserve is not met and
they then bid higher? Looking over the bid history and
the date/time they make the bid, it looks like they already have the high bid. So the only reason I could see bidding higher was if I hadn't met the reserve price.

Of course, I don't know how acruate the Date/time that e-bay shows in the bid history is. Sometimes the histor list looks strange. A person placing a higher price appears lower on list (by date/time).


When you bid against yourself on Ebay, all it does is raise the maximum amount that you are willing to spend. Ebay uses "proxy" bidding. The amount you actually pay is only a percent or two above the next highest bid.

People usually raise their own bids when they see other bidders are getting close to what they have already bid, or if they place a bid and figure out it is only a couple of bucks over the previous high bid.

For instance they bid 80 dollars on something, Ebay comes back and says the high bid is now $77 (because the previous bidder had bid $75). They then go back and bid $100. Ebay still shows the high bid as $75, but it gives them $25 more in automatic bid increases incase anybody else bids against them.


Some people did last-minute bidding. However, they feared that their (proxy) bid was not high enough and that they might be outbid ultimately.


If you place an Ebay bid and are immediately outbid (i.e. your bid is anywhere below the maximum amount the current top bidder has placed by proxy), I don't think your bid ever shows up in the list of bidders and amounts. It's as if you never existed for this auction - which is fair enough: you haven't bid high enough to force somebody else to do something other than what they have already committed to do.

I suspect those folks who appear 5 or 6 times in a row, with higher and higher amounts, are (as somebody else suggested) just raising their maximum proxy bid after having second thoughts that their first (or second, or third, or ...) amount won't really be enough to win and they are willing to go higher without waiting for the competition to jump in. This tends to be newbies. I think most of us with some Ebay experience put in our (nearly!) maximum bid on about the second try, halfway through (or closer to the end) of the auction. (That tends to be my strategy/logic, at least: bid fairly low at first, to check the competition - is there somebody out there willing to compete at your initial level of interest? Then, you come back later. If the price is up, you now decide whether you really want this object, or were just hoping for a bargain on the first try (it happens). If you want to compete and want this item, it now makes sense to put in your maximum proxy amount. If you are willing to hang around near the end of the auction, then you might go lower than your absolute maximum, so you don't push somebody with competitive juices too high, and you then expect to place a last-minute bid or two if the price hasn't gotten too high.)

I'd be interested in hearing other thoughts on bid strategy - I mean some combination of how much you want "THIS" item, how much you are looking for a bargain, and whether or not you have the time to hang around at the end of an auction.

I know there have been several threads on Ebay sniping and other questionable (by some!) bidding techniques and strategies, so I'm not trying to start those discussions again! Just looking for some other strategies, too.


I might as well comment ...

I often place a minimal bid early so that can track it later. Shortly after I noticed Buy-It-Nows and the possible effect of ruining BUY-IT-NOW for someone else, I made sure I do not bid on a BUY-IT-NOW, unless right then I am going to Buy-It-Now myself. The only exception I make is when it is a very low bid, and the seller has a reserve. (It won't hurt someone elses chance).

I often ask the seller of RESERVE auctions, what the reserve amount is, so "that I can bid appropriately." This is mostly a way to tell if I can afford to bid a real bid later. I avoid bidding my maximum bid early as this usually drives the price higher, I often beyond what I would be willing to spend. The exception is if I know I can not be at the computer at auction end [Vacation, business trips, sleeping, typically).

I have been guilty a few times each year of bidding a lot of small increments at the beginning of an auction. This is to see if I can get the "Hot Item" flame icon at ebay to turn on for the item. I think it requires 30 bids the first 24 hours, or something like that. I do it at items often under $1, so that my silliness does not inflate the price.


I have never figured out why anybody would place a hidden reserve price on an Ebay item. If they want to protect themselves just set the opening bid at the reserve price. Items that do not sell are almost always have a reserve set (which was usually less than identical items listed at the same time without a reserve and did sell). When relisted without a reserve they usually wind up selling... for less than the bids the first time around.

The guy who tried to sell the two 9100A machines is an excellent example. Imagine two 9100A's NOT selling. He would not disclose his reserve. When he relists them I bet that the bids will be lower than before.


He sold them... he sold them both... and he didn't pay eBay fees. He probably had a reserve to find out who was interested.

Did you ever see them back on eBay?

I was contacted by him. Others were too. I passed because he was holding an off-ebay auction.


The key words were "when he relists them". He never relisted them because he sold them off line... for a little less than what the high bids were. I'm very confident that they would have sold for more if they had not been listed with a hidden reserve.


I offered $1500 and he said he had higher offers, so I'm quite confident that he got more than what the high bids were on eBay, at least for the working one.


Yes, I know exactly what was paid for them ;) With shipping it was pretty darn close to what the high bids were at.


Here are my two cents worth...

First, I need to know what the "market" price on eBay is for the item, and the volitility of that price. This is accomplished by looking at the final prices on completed auctions. I also look who the loosing bidders were - some were just placing monitoring bids, others were legitimately trying to win the auction and will likely bid in the future.

Second, I have to decide how much the item is worth to me. This includes deciding if its even worth the market price to me, or how much over the market price I'm willing to pay. For unusual/rare items, I try to make a best guess from my observations of previous auctions of similar items.

Third, I decide if I can even afford to place a meaningful bid. (Yes, this sometimes means that I miss bidding on something that by some fluke went for a small fraction of its market price.)

Finally, if I do decide to place a bid, I usually bid snipe it, and usually use a snipe-bot. With a snipe-bot, I won't loose sleep or upset my employeer, and I avoid getting wrapped up in a bidding frenzy.

With Buy-It-Now auctions, I still go through my pricing process. But, I'm usually willing to pay a small premium to avoid the aggravation of the auction.

And, with HP calculator auctions, I long ago gave up even trying to understand that market. Like many people in this forum, all I can do is express astonishment at the prices some people are willing to pay for fairly common machines.


Dave wrote:

"If you place an Ebay bid and are immediately outbid (i.e. your bid is anywhere below the maximum amount the current top bidder has placed by proxy), I don't think your bid ever shows up in the list of bidders and amounts. It's as if you never existed for this auction ..."

I don't think this is correct. The Ebay Proxy Bidding system only increases the bid by the current increment. As long as your bid is higher that the current high bid (that is to say, at least one increment higher than the bid which is one increment higher than the SECOND highest bid), your bid will be recorded and then the Proxy Bidding system will see if the previous high bidder had a high enough maximum bid to exceed your maximum bid by at least one increment. If so, you will be immediately outbid but your bid (your maximum bid) will still be recorded because for a moment you were the high bidder! The only time your bid doesn't register at all is when it is lower that the current high bid by the time it gets to Ebay - at the end, sometimes a lot of people are bidding just moments apart.

The most frustrating thing might be when you match the previous high bidder's maximum bid. Since he bid the same amount some time before you, he wins! At least when there is an increment difference between your highest bid and the winning bid, you can console yourself with the idea that the winner's maximum bid might have been much higher than you would pay.

I would like to repeat my current disenchantment with Ebay, which is sellers who don't know how to pack things properly for shipment. As I said before, some Ebay sellers buy something for a dollar and sell it on Ebay for a hundred dollars, then wrap it up for shipment as if it is something worth only a dollar, which can be easily replaced.


Ellis wrote:

...The most frustrating thing might be when you match the previous high bidder's maximum bid. Since he bid the same amount some time before you, he wins!...

This is why one of my *very first* pieces of advice to any 'eBayer' (who would listen) would be this: *NEVER* bid with an even---or nearly even---dollar amount! Looking at the bid history of auctions, I'm always amazed to see that, more often than not, the bids are on $1.00 boundaries!

Do yourself a favor, and never, ever again bid a dollar amount that is a multiple of 25 cents; add a random fraction of a dollar. And adding a penny isn't good enough! :-) Instead of $10.00, bid $10.38, or $10.12, or $10.83, or ... you get the point. I always do this, and I have never tied. The odds of tying when doing this are much smaller than the few-hundred-to-one that you might think (assuming the next-highest bidder is within a couple of dollars), since *hardly anyone* bids like this!

Just my two cents...no, make that *ELEVEN* cents! ;-)



V busy at moment but my tactic is:

bid late, bid just enough.

If someone bids in the final few seconds there is very little you can do about it.

If some-one is in a bidding war don't get sucked in.

Remember there are always more fish in the sea - but over time the prices are going up and up! I wonder when the bubble will burst - if ever.


A perfect example of irrational bidding with 5 days remaining...



You cannot increase your own bid. Some people bid and then realize that they should have placed a higher bid. Those are the ones where you see two on top.

But you cannot increase your own bid. I have done just that from time to time and it never increases my bid; only by high bid.

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